Jerusalem - Considerations of the Vatican Secretariat of State
1- The fundamental agreement between the Holy See and the state of Israel was signed on 30 December 1993. In Article 11, paragraph 2 of the Agreement we find the same basic concept that appear in article 24 of the Lateral Treaty, which was an agreement between the Holy See and the Italian state, signed on 11 February 1929, (ending a long controversy arising out of the occupation of Rome in 1870). Paragraph 2 of article 11 of the fundamental agreement says: "the Holy See is solemnly committed to remaining a stranger to all merely temporal conflicts, which principle applies specifically to disputed territories and unsettled borders". This statement has given rise to a number of critical observations, especially when reference is being made to the status of Jerusalem. In part, these reservations may e due to the fact that few people have paid proper attention to the first part of the same Paragraph 2 of Article 11, where it says that the Holy See maintain " in every case the right to exercise its moral and spiritual teaching- office ".
2- On the same day that the agreement was signed, the press office of the Holy See publicly presented a detailed official statement, which included, among other things, an explanation of the meaning of article 11, paragraph 2. The statement said that the Holy See would not get involved in territorial problems as far as strictly technical aspect were concerned, but it would not renounce its mission or its right to express its judgment on the moral dimensions that each of these questions necessarily entails.
3- the same statement made a specific reference to the question of Jerusalem and affirmed:
- that questions relative to the city of Jerusalem have been a cause of concern for the holy see for a long time;
- that these questions are not mentioned in the agreement because of their international and multilateral character, which prevents their being resolved by the fundamental agreement, which, by its nature is bilateral, binding only the two parties which signed it;
- that these questions remain important for the Holy See which has not changed its position on them (a position which the statement then proceeds to illustrate ).
I- Analysis of the question
1. There exists a territorial problem relative to Jerusalem. Since 1967, when a part of the city was militarily occupied and then annexed, this problem has become more obvious and more difficult. The part of the city that was occu- | pied and annexed is where most of the Holy places of the three monotheistic religion are situated.
The Holy See has always insisted that this territorial question should be resolved equitably and bv negotiation. The Holy See, as the previously mentioned article 11 of the fundamental agreement indicates, is not concerned with the question of how many square meters or kilometers constitute the disputed territory, but it does have the right - a right which it exercise- to express a moral judgment on the situation.
It is obvious that every territorial dispute involves ethical considerations, such as the right of national communities to selfdetermi-nation, the right of communities to preserve their own identity, the right of all people to equality before the law and in the distribution of resources, the right not to be discriminated against by reason of ethnic origin or religious affiliation, etc.
The Holv See's attitude with regard to the territorial situation of Jerusalem is necessarily the same as that of the international community . The latter could be summarized as follows: the part of the city militarily occupied in 1967 and annexed and declared the capital of the state of Israel, is occupied territory, and all Israeli measures which exceed the power of a belligerent occupant under international law are therefore null and void. In particular, This same position was expressed, and is still expressed, by Resolution 478 of the United Nations security Council. adopted on 20 August 1980, which declared the Israeli "basic law" concerning Jerusalem to be "null and void", and which invited countries with Embassies in Jerusalem to move them elsewhere.
As is well known, when the Holy See entered into diplomatic relations with the state of Israel, it opened its Nunciature (Embassy) in Tel Aviv, where indeed the overwhelming majority of the Embassies are situated. It is also well known that the Apostolic Delegation for Jerusalem and Palestine, (opened) on 11 February 1948, before the state of Israel was established) continues to function.
2- There is however a further aspect of Jerusalem which in the holy see's view goes well beyond the simple territorial aspect: this is the "religious dimension" of the City, the particular value which it has for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers who live there, and for Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers throughout the world.
It is a question here of a value which must be considered as having a worldwide and universal character: Jerusalem is a " treasure of the whole humanity".
For decades, and long before the 1967 occupation, the Holy See has always been very attentive to this aspect, and has not failed to intervene when necessary, insisting on the need for adequate measures to protect the singular identity of the holy City. An explanation of what this protection consists of, and what characteristics it must have in order to meet its objectives, can be outlined as follows in 11, 2:
a) with a view to safeguarding the universal character of a city already claimed by two peoples (Arab and Jewish) and held sacred by three religions, the Holv See supported the proposal for the internationalization of the territory. the "corpus separatum" called for by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 (11) of 29 November 1047. The Holy See at the time considered the " corpus separatum" as an adequate means a useful juridical instrument, for preventing Jerusalem from becoming a cause and arena of conflict, with the resulting loss of an important aspect of its identity (as in fact subsequently happened and continues to happen).
b) In the years that followed, although the objective of internationalization was shown to be unattainable, the Holy See especially, but not only, through public statement of the popes continued to call for the protection of the Holv City's identity. It consistently drew attention to the need for an international commitment in this regard. To this end, the Holy See has consistently called for an international juridical instrument: which is what is meant by the phrase "an internationally guaranteed special statute".
c) Following the well-known events of 1967 and their aftermath, the Holy See's concern has not waned but has become ever more insistent. Documented proof of this concern can be found in Archbishop Edmond Farhat's collection of documents, entitled Jerusalem in Papal Documents from 1887 to 1984, published in Rome in 1987. This valuable work has also been translated into Arabic and published in Lebanon. Among these documents the following can be listed as examples for their comprehensiveness and clarity:
- the Address of Pope Paul VI to the Cardinals and prelates of the Roman Curia on 22 December 1967;
- the Statement distributed at the United Nations by the Holy See's permanent Observer Mission on 3 December 1979;
- the article which appeared in the 30 June- 1 July 1980 edition of L'osservatore Romano.
II. Clarification of some concepts
1- It is important to note that in its interventions the Holy See has always insisted on yet another question, which, given the particular situation of Jerusalem, is of fundamental importance precisely for safeguarding the identity of the Holy City:
Jerusalem is equally regarded as sacred by the three great monotheistic religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In other words, no unilateral claim made in the name of one or other of these religions . or bv reason of historical precedence or numerical preponderance. is acceptable, Jerusalem is a unique reality, universal because of its sacredness, as a whole and for the three religions.
This was clearly underscored by his Holiness Pope John Paul 11 his Apostolic Letter Redemptionis Anno of 20 April 1984.
There he writes:
" Jews ardently love (Jerusalem) and every age venerate her memory "abundant as she is in many remains and monuments from the time of David who chose her as the capital, and of Solomon who built the Temple there. Therefore they turn their minds to her daily one may say, and point to her as sign of their nation. " " Christians honor her with a religious and intent concern because there the words of Christ so often resound, there the great events of the Redemption were accomplished; the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord . In the city of Jerusalem the first Christian community sprang up and remained through the centuries a continual ecclesial presence despite difficulties . "
"Muslims also call Jerusalem "holy" with a profound attachment that goes back to the origins of Islam and spring from the fact that they have there many special places of pilgrimage and for more than a thousand years have dewelt there, almost without interruption. "
2- It would also seem important and fundamental to explain what the Holy See means by " safeguarding the identity" of Jerusalem, and what it means by " guarantees". In the Holy see's View:
- The historical and and material characteristics of the City, as well as its religious and cultural characteristics, must be preserved, and perhaps today it is necessary to speak of restoring and safeguarding those still existing;
- there must be equality of rights and treatment for those belonging to the communities of the three religions found in the city, in the context of the freedom of spiritual, cultural, civic and economic activities;
- the Holy Places situated in the City must be preserved, and the rights of freedom of religion and worship, and of access, for residents and pilgrims alike, whether from the Holy Land itself or from other parts of the world, must be safeguarded.
At stake is the basic question of preserving and protecting the identity of the Holy City in its entirety, in every aspect. For example, the simple "extraterritoriality"of the Holy Places, with the assurance that pilgrims would be able to visit them without hindrance, would not suffice. The identity of the City includes a sacred character which belongs not just to the individual sites or monuments, as if these could be separated from one another or isolated from the respective communities. The sacred character involves Jerusalem in its entirety, its holy places and its communities.
Continues on the next issue with: Situation after the Oslo Agreement
CIN St. Gabriel E-Mail
Copyright © 1996 Catholic Information Network (CIN) - November 24, 1996